Dating is a funny thing. In your 20s it’s all fun and games with incriminating screenshots and hilarious anecdotes but when you’re dating in your 30s, it’s a different ballgame. Your single circle starts shrinking and one by one your pals start co-habiting, marrying or having babies. Settling down becomes the new normal and being “the single one” marks you out as an anomaly. If I’m being honest, it’s a bit of a minefield to navigate!
You’re suddenly hit with the weight of everyone else’s expectations…and the incessant questions about your dating life. “So who are you seeing now?”, “What happened to the last one?”, “OMG what’s Tinder like?” etc etc. I know they’re well-intentioned but most of them make you feel like a dating Tasmanian Devil who flies through men! My least favourite is the pitying “ohhhh I’m sorry. You’ll find someone” comments which, honestly, make me want to cut my own ears off.
There is huge societal pressure to settle down and bizarrely it starts from your mid-twenties. Had a boyfriend for, like, a year? “Oooh when are you two going to settle down?!”. This attitude blows my mind, do you realise how little of your life you’ve lived by 25? Life expectancy in the UK is 80.96 years of age! As you get older, you feel like there’s something wrong with you or that you’re dubbed “unlucky in love”. Maybe you’re just waiting for the right person or aren’t ready. Either way, people shouldn’t be pressured or shamed into being in a relationship, having babies, moving in together or getting married.
I’ve experienced the added cultural pressure of being Indian too. Because, you know, the weight of society as a whole isn’t quite enough when you’re dating in your 30s. Soon after I graduated university, my mum took me to meet some “nice boys” just in case we were compatible *insert rolling eyes emoji*. This is quite normal for Asian families and it’s far from an arranged marriage, it’s more like being introduced to someone who’s pre-vetted.
My family is far from traditional so going through this process was very odd for me. I think the main trigger for my mum was her cancer diagnosis a few years prior, now that I’d finished my studies she wanted to make sure I was ok in the future. After indulging her in a couple of meets, I told her I was actually fine by myself and didn’t need any of these boring boys holding me back from what I want to achieve in life…and that was that! She’s very chilled about me settling down now and I’m so thankful we have a mutual understanding.
Truth be told, there are times where I don’t like being single. There are times where I feel lonely, lament the state of single men in London and wish I had someone to cuddle up to at the end of a hard day. On those days, those questions and comments about my love life (or often, lack of) would sting. To quote Charlotte from Sex And The City, “I’ve been dating since I was 15. I’m exhausted! Where is he?!”.
But over time, I’ve learnt to shrug off other people’s opinions and expectations and I realised that I actually really love being single. I have the freedom to be incredibly selfish with my time and my life. This has given me the space to uncurl and spread my wings. I can explore life and figure out what I want, whether it’s friends, my career or travel, without someone else’s expectations influencing me.
I’ve had the independence to quit jobs I didn’t like, tweak my career, launch a blog, rebrand a blog and take on freelance work because I have the time and freedom to do so. I’ve taken incredible solo trips to Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia and Cuba as well as travel to Myanmar and Zanzibar with my best boys.
Having time to work on myself and curate a happy, fulfilled life does make dating tough. As much as any person can, I feel like I’ve got my shit together and therefore I’m less inclined to waste my time with a guy who’s not worth it. When you’ve battled to become the woman you are today, you know your value and take exception when people treat you like you’re disposable.
I’ve dated all sorts of wrong’uns, as well as some absolute gems, so my bullshit radar is fine-tuned and I can spot a red flag a mile away. As a result, I actually only go on dates with guys who I can be certain I’d want to see again. There’s nothing worse than having an awful time with a guy while thinking of all the places you’d rather be – at work, out with friends, at home in PJs, even the gym… You know it’s bad when you’d rather be at the gym!
I’m happy to take my time and find the right man for me, rather than bow to the societal pressure to settle down, get married and have babies. My nightmare is to settle with the wrong person and regret it later. I had a very close call with a man who seemed lovely but turned out to be emotionally abusive, which I touched on in this post. I had a very harsh wake-up call about what life could be like, so I’m even more protective over my wellbeing and being in a mutually respectful, nurturing and loving relationship is part of that.
So while I’m happy being single, I am dating and hoping to find “the one” but in the meantime, I’m going to live the fuck out of life. Times are changing and as much as we respect someone’s decision to cohabit/get married/have children, we should also respect people’s decisions to stay single and/or work on themselves. Carrie Bradshaw said it best when she said: “Being single used to mean that nobody wanted you. Now it means you’re pretty sexy and you’re taking your time deciding how you want life to be and who you want to spend it with.”.
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